NASCAR Atlanta 2013: Brad Keselowski hoping to emulate Tony Stewart

John Harrelson

NASCAR’s defending champion is winless and staring at the possibility that he won’t qualify for the Chase, but Brad Keselowski is convinced his team will rise to the challenge.

Looking at the standings and seeing he's 11th in points -- with a zero next to his name in the win column -- Brad Keselowski understands the situation he's in as he attempts to claim a spot in NASCAR's Chase.

"I look at this as a tremendous opportunity to prove the merits of our team," Keselowski said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "That we can operate at a high level because there have been a lot of circumstances out of our control that have put us in this position to not be locked in so late in the season. Our back is against the wall.

"But these are the times where great teams step up and they make something happen and where great drivers step up and they make a play, Keselowksi continued. "That's what I'm looking forward to that opportunity to prove what we're worth and what we're made of."

The current Sprint Cup champion compared his current situation to the one Tony Stewart encountered two years ago.

Stewart was also winless at the time before squeaking into the 2011 edition of the Chase. He wasn't expected to be much of a factor, but he opened the playoffs with a surprising win at Chicagoland followed by four more victories en route to his third series title.

Keselowski feels history can repeat itself if he can qualify for the Chase and sees no reason why he can't again contend for the championship.

"I think there are a lot of parallels between (Stewart's) season that year and where I'm at right now," Keselowski said. "I feel like if we hit everything right, we have an opportunity to do something very similar to him, and I see that in our team. If our team makes the Chase and does its job right, we're going to make a lot of noise. I really believe that, but we have work to do to make that happen."

Ready to embrace the challenge ahead, Keselowski believes that his team will respond accordingly over the next two weeks. This stems from having tested both at Atlanta and at Richmond International Raceway -- the site of the Sept. 7 regular season finale.

He admittedly does not have the same confidence as he did a year ago, but Keselowski enters Atlanta trailing 10th-place Joey Logano by just four points, giving him a realistic chance of earning a Chase berth by climbing inside the top-10.

Wwatching the scoreboard and seeing where he stacks up points-wise is not something Keselowski plans on doing, however.

"We still control our own destiny," Keselowski said. "We might be sitting 11th in points, but essentially if we put up two strong finishes, that will be a moot point and that's kind of how I'm looking at it from that perspective.

"That doesn't mean I don't want to win and it also doesn't mean that I'm gonna do something really dumb to try to win," Keselowski said, "and I think there's a difference between the two."

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